Review: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union

I love the last thirty pages of a novel. If you’re reading via conventional means (i.e. a book made of paper) you can visibly see the end of the book coming near, but you can also feel it. I love the gallop, the race toward the end and then the finish. Whenever I finish a book I am simultaneously happy and sad; glad for such a good thing to exist in the world and simply sad that it’s over. That’s why the second I finish one book I immediately pick up another. No need to let that misery stew when there’s so much content going unread.

by Michael Chabon (also, tea)

I just finished Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union this snowy afternoon; an afternoon I thought I would have to be at work, but the weather gods deemed fit to declare what is likely the last snow day of this abysmally snowy season. Chabon’s novel is a thought experiment. What if after WWII instead of that whole business in Israel, the European Jews relocated to Sitka, Alaska and developed a thriving community, almost sovereign? The novel follows Detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police of Sitka, the looming reversion of the District, and the murder of a man in a crummy hotel room.


The novel is a little difficult to get into, but once you do it is impossible to put down. Meyer is a tough, multifaceted character – totally bananas, one of those “I’ll do anything to get to the bottom of this” cops that make choices which are delightful to watch play out. At it’s heart, the story is a crime drama – you get to witness the interplay of Detective Landsman, his partner Berko Shemets, and his boss/ex-wife Inspector Bina Gelbfish get to the bottom of this mystery and the intrigue that surrounds it. But it is also a story of family and tradition; a story about chess; a story about politics and religion; and finally a story about love and redemption.

I have never read any of Chabon’s other novels but I am very much looking forward to doing so. This one was a good book; masterfully written and full of action and surprises. It is also delightfully psychological. I recommend it with the highest honors I can muster. Do check it out.


2 thoughts on “Review: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union

  1. This is one of the few Chabon novels I haven’t read, I better get it on my radar pretty quick.

    I gotta say, I started reading your review because of the first paragraph. I feel the same way at the end of a book! it’s like “the end is almost here, how is the author going to finish it? how is all that ending going to get crammed into only 30 pages? i gotta know right now!!!”. I often end up reading the last chapter twice, becuase the first time I’ve zipped right through it to get to the end. the 2nd time though, i pick up all the subtleties.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s